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January 5

Think Goa and one might think of beaches, babes and booze. But for those occasional tuned cars I saw on every trip in the last few years, I knew there was a car culture waiting to be explored there. It is always the lifestyle and topography of a place that influences its car culture. The open roads and the laid back lifestyle have lead to people enjoying their cars more than others living in crowded metros. And adding your own personal touches to your car only makes you more….erm…Goan.

At the heart of Goa’s tuning scene is Mr. Ketan Maganlal and his Performance+ tuning shop which specializes in Pete’s products. He has done a lot of cars right from small diesel hatchbacks to a Porsche 911 Turbo S. So his personal transport had to be something special and a tuned Laura RS fits in rather nicely. Ketan remembers the day when Peter Chacko insisted on him picking up the RS version of the Laura saying there were only a few more stocks remaining and he would regret it when they are all gone. Ketan had almost made up his mind, but his only confusion was as to what colour he should go for. Skoda had only yellow and white cars available in his region and knowing that the yellow would be too loud for his personality, he picked up the white one. It was then sent to Pete’s in Kochi for the upgrades.

It is hard to believe the Laura is a generation old now. The performance and dynamics of the car combined to a shape that lends itself to tuning makes this one of the best base cars to begin with. This being an RS, it has the must-have front bumper for a Laura fitted as standard. Add to that Ketan’s Laura now sports the Milotec mesh grille and eye lids giving the front end a crisper look. The sides and rear are left untouched. The Laura runs on conservative and rather well suited 17 inch Borbet rims. The offset is perfect and the anthracite wheels contrast well with the white body. The lowered stance is achieved with the Bilstein coilovers underneath.

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Ketan is a spirited driver and loves the way his car is setup. His only regret is that he isn’t driving it as much as he should. Living close to his work place in the middle of a busy town, makes him reach out for a different set of keys than this one’s. But for those occasions he pulls it out every week, he makes sure the rest of Goa, turns into a blur!

The Laura runs a JBS Hybrid K04 turbo upgrade with stock internals, clutch and intercooler.  The engine benefits from a downpipe and a remap. The setup is good for over 300bhp in the right conditions. Having driven similar cars in Kochi, at the same sea level and around the same temperature, getting behind the wheel was like reacquainting with an old friend.

It is the Jekyl and Hyde character of this motor that impresses you the most. At city speeds, it is refined and civilized, getting good fuel efficiency and chugging along nicely. Yes, it has a snappy clutch, but once you get used, it is rather easy.

Get the turbo on boost and it is a different story altogether. The car accelerates forward in proper tuned car fashion. There is no let up in power till 5500rpm and though most enthusiasts complain about the rev limit being lower on turbocharged cars, but there is no denying they are fast in every gear. This particular Laura sounds rorty thanks to its uprated Miltek exhaust system I got to throw around Ketan’s car on the same twisty bits where I did the Honda BRV that morning. Not only could I carry almost double the speed through a follow through, it still felt like child’s play in the Laura. The combination of good grippy tyres and the Bilstein B14 coilovers is hard to beat in the corners. Yes, these track focussed coilovers are a bit stiff for daily use, but it offers supercar levels of grip in the corners. The chassis feels even tighter thanks to Eibach antiroll bars and polyurethane bushes all around. And the Tarox G88 brakes with Strada pads are so confidence inspiring, you soon forget you are doing silly speeds all the time.

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